Improving sustainability is the responsibility of us all and there’s no better place to start than at home. Juggling a family with a busy life though, can make being sustainable feel like just another chore. Often, convenience wins over sustainability when it comes to decisions about food.
Is it possible to make more sustainable choices and feed your family conveniently and economically at the same time? Our sustainable eating tips can help you do just that!
Reducing Food Waste
According to ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’, a typical British family wastes over £800 of food each year. That’s £800, just tipped into the bin. We’re not only talking about kids deciding they don’t like the food they loved yesterday. Household food waste also includes food thrown out because it simply wasn’t used. This might be due to overbuying, running out of time before it spoils or not planning meals properly.
Here’s our tips on reducing your food waste, and saving money at the same time.
Become a Meal Planning Pro
Meal planning can seem like a daunting task. Especially if you’re new to the concept or lacking in headspace with a house-full of children. It can be hard enough looking at a recipe book sometimes, let alone planning a week’s worth of meals in advance!
Try starting with a few meals each week or creating a ‘go to’ list of firm family-favourites. Listing all the ingredients you need for each one is useful – in time it could become your own family recipe book.
Having a plan for at least part of the week will minimise the chances of opting for an easy takeaway. Buying a takeaway or picking up a ready meal on the way home could mean that the fresh food you already have goes bad and ends up in the bin.
These tips will not only reduce your food waste but your total food bill too – a win, win situation!
Location, Location, Location
Once you’ve bought food, the last thing you want to do is let it spoil. Correct food storage is key. Organise meat and fish by use by date, and use the food with the shortest date first. Don’t fall for Buy One Get One Free deals on food if you know your family won’t get through it all!
Unless your family devour food straight from the shopping bags, most fresh fruit and veg are best kept in the fridge. Potatoes do better in a dark cupboard and keep bananas out of direct sunlight.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Big Bad Best Before Date
Best before dates, usually used on fruit and veg are simply there to tell you when a food is at its best. If a food is past this date but still looks good, it’s usually ok. (Food such as meat will have a ‘use by’ date, and should be eaten before this date.)
Think creatively when it comes to food that may look past its best but is still edible. If a banana or avocado is looking too squidgy to eat, why not try mashing it on some toast or adding it to a smoothie?
You can even freeze bananas if you want to make a healthy cake or smoothie another time.
If you have some vegetables lurking in the back of the fridge (who doesn’t?), try roasting them. They’ll make great stocks, soups and pasta sauces that can be frozen for another day.
You can help reduce overbuying by creating a shopping list before you hit the shops. Taking a ‘shelfie’ – a photo of your fridge and cupboards to remind you of what’s there, also helps.
Did you know you can also freeze leftover wine to add to recipes? (Although with children in the house who has leftovers?)
Back to Basics?
Cooking from scratch is a great way to feed your family sustainably. It reduces the need for expensive processed and packaged foods. Realistically though, this may not be possible every night. The competing demands of family life have a habit of getting in the way.
A practical, sustainable habit is cooking a couple of meals each week and using the leftovers the next day. Doubling or even tripling the ingredients of a recipe and freezing the extra is another option.
You could try cooking up a large batch of mince for a bolognaise one night, and saving half for later in the week. Reheat it thoroughly, add some chilli powder and kidney beans, and you have a quick chilli you can serve with rice or jacket potatoes. You can do the same with veggie mince. Leftover meat from a Sunday roast can be used to make a chicken salad or a beef lasagne.
Eating together as a family also reduces food waste along with many other benefits. If achieving this during the week is impractical, commit to eating at least one meal together at the weekend. Sunday lunch is a good time to aim for. For family meal inspiration BBC Good Food has some great ideas.
Portion size is crucial to reducing waste too. This can be difficult to gauge, but try offering a smaller portion first, then offering seconds. This way you may end up with leftovers for your lunch the following day. Food compost bins are also vital if you have young kids, for the food that cannot be saved or has ended up on the floor!
Reconsidering Where Your Food Comes From
Sustainable Box Schemes
To reduce plastic packaging, consider food boxes from sustainable companies. Riverford and Oddbox are good places to start. Oddbox delivers cheap, wonky vegetables that have been rejected by the supermarkets.
This reduces food waste even further, and they donate 10% of their profits to local charities. The wonky vegetables might even generate some amusement for your kids! (This service is only available in London but hopefully it will expand further afield.)
Grow Your Own
Growing your own fruit and vegetables as a family activity can be both rewarding and cost-effective. Any surplus also makes fantastic gifts for friends and family.
Start with foods that are simple to grow in small spaces, such as tomatoes and strawberries. Then progress onto more involved veg-patching, with potatoes and carrots.
If space or time is limited, you could start by growing herbs on your windowsill.
Reducing the amount of meat we all eat is a crucial step in improving our sustainability. The planet can no longer support the world’s meat consumption as it is.
To start reducing your meat intake, try eating meat-free one day a week. ‘Meat-free Monday’ is a good source of information and includes a selection of recipes.
Some children are reluctant to try plant-based meals, especially if they’re not used to them. Try talking to them about the benefits to the planet and their health by reducing their meat intake.
Involving and Informing the Whole Family
Your children are important contributors to your family’s sustainability drive. Get them involved from an early age by talking about the need for sustainable practices inside and outside of the home.
Help them to develop their cookery skills so the next generation have the confidence to cook from scratch. This will help them avoid becoming reliant on convenience and processed food when they fly the nest.
Regularly involve your kids in food preparation. Ask them to choose a family meal and let them play an age-appropriate role in its creation. A visit to the farmers’ market to select and learn about ingredients makes a great family trip.